The reverse crunch is a demanding core exercise that primarily hits our rectus abdominis, the muscle in the abdomen that makes up our “6-pack.”
It’s an easy exercise that we can pick up in minutes and is excellent for beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike. As we get stronger, we can increase the number of sets and reps to continue to make it more challenging.
Let’s have a closer glance at the advantages of a reverse crunch, how to do it rightly, and other useful crunch variations.
Benefits of a Reverse Crunch
We might prefer the reverse crunch if we have difficulty with neck discomfort in the traditional crunch or situp. This exercise will activate our major abdominal muscles, including the external obliques on the abdomen’s sides. It is useful for developing an attractive stomach musculature as well as functional and strong abs .
A solid core is a basis for improving our sports performance and maintaining stability, balance, and good posture in daily life. Strengthening the abdominal muscles will prepare us for vigorous sporting activity, and those active tasks around the home, like gardening, where twisting and bending, and reaching are important.
It is advantageous to include various ab exercises in our routine, so our core muscles are challenged in slightly different ways. A reverse crunch provides several of the same benefits as a traditional crunch. However, because our neck and most of our back remain on the ground, it’s assumed to be easier on our spine.
[Also Read: Simple Chair Exercises for Seniors]
Advantages of a Reverse Crunch
Here are a few of the significant advantages of a reverse crunch:
1. Strengthens the Rectus Abdominis
The reverse crunch primarily works the rectus abdominis (the “6-pack”). The principal purpose of this muscle is to flex the trunk and spine.
2. Takes the strain off the neck
When doing situps and crunches, individuals often pull their neck forward with their hands. The reverse crunch keeps the head flat on the ground and the neck out of a vulnerable position.
3. Less stressful on the back than crunches
Studies have found that reducing how far the spine bends forward during crunches minimizes the spinal discs’ force. Since reverse crunches flex the spine less than traditional crunches, they’re thought to be easier on the back.
4. Targets other core muscles
Reverse crunches also activate the transverse abdominis, the deep muscle below the abdominals, and the external obliques.
Easy to set up. All we need for reverse crunches are our own bodyweight. That means we can do them anywhere and anytime we want.
[Also Read: Best Exercises to Get Rid of Hip Dips]
Are there any drawbacks to this exercise?
The reverse crunch doesn’t target our obliques as much as some other core exercises. Our obliques are two layers of muscle on either side of our core that help us twist and bend our trunk.
In recent times, there’s been a shift away from isolated core training for enhancing athletic performance. Instead, there’s more of a stress on performing integrated movements that more closely imitate athletic movements .
If you’re focusing on strength training to improve your athletic performance, you may also want to include dynamic core exercises into the regimen. These are workouts that more closely replicate movements in the sport. For instance, a golfer may want to include rotational medicine ball throws to help benefit their golf swing.
Given their bad reputation, it’s no surprise that crunches have been pushed aside in favor of seemingly more effective abdominal exercises, such as the Paloff press and the plank.
Although crunches might be contraindicated for individuals with degenerative disc disease, low back pain, or osteoporosis, for the vast majority of individuals, crunches are effective and safe at training the muscles at the front of the abdomen.
[Also Read: Hip Strengthening Exercises and Stretches]
Better Than Full Situps
The crunch bolsters the rectus abdominis by flexing it. You’d think the situp would provide the same benefit, but more so because you go higher. However, this primary ab muscle only activates during the initial 30 to 45 degrees of movement — or the point at which our shoulder blades lift off of the ground.
Lift higher, and our hip flexors activate, which can put excess stress on the lumbar spine. Our hip flexors tend to be overworked, so they don’t need this additional exercise. The crunch’s small range of motion is an advantage as it trains our core without stressing our back.
Our abs’ primary role is to stabilize our mid-section. It helps maintain good posture, supports us as we lift heavy objects, and makes it so we can twist and rotate. These are steps taken all day long, so our abs need to be able to sustain long periods of work.
Crunches help build this vital endurance in the abdomen muscles. Muscular endurance is the capability of these fibers to act against resistance for a prolonged period.
Even just a day per week of crunches improved abdominal endurance in individuals who had no previous abdominal exercise training, showed a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
More Effective Than Gadgets
Infomercials promise you that your abs will become flat and defined if only you use their gadget. Sadly, most of these promises are too good to be true.
In 2014, the ACE (American Council of Exercise) performed a small study that pitted many of these tools — including the ab roller, ab circle pro, ab lounge, and ab rocket — against the standard crunch to measure effectiveness.
Not one of the tools proved better at activating the muscles of the abdomen. Furthermore, you aren’t out of any storage space or cash with a crunch. You can make a move just about anywhere you have the motivation and little floor space.
The reverse crunch is an easy core exercise that can help strengthen the abdominals. It’s considered to be easier on the back than traditional crunches and situps because our spine doesn’t flex as much. If you feel any intense pain while performing reverse crunches, stop right away.
If you have an injury, new to fitness, or are not sure how to do a reverse plank with good form, you may want to work with a certified personal coach to begin.